The Old Fort

The name “Kuwait” is derived from the word “Kut” which means “small fort,” a reference to a structure from its past. In Shipmasters of Kuwait, Khaled Bourisly writes that it was built in 1613 and that, “this year is often used in historical texts to mark the beginning of Kuwait as a small nation.” In the early modern period, tribes from the Najd region of present-day Saudi Arabia migrated to what is now Kuwait. Together, they are known as the Bani Utub. At the time, the Bani Khalid controlled the region. According to Jehan S. Rajab in her work Voice of the Oud, Ottoman authorities at this time referred to the region as “The Land of the Tribes” and it was considered a “wilderness” outside the Ottoman Empire. According to Farah Al Nakib in her work Kuwait Transformed, when the Bani Utub arrived, there were some fishermen’s forts and the small fort–a “kut.” With time, the settlement grew and by the mid 18th century, the Sabah family was selected to provide political leadership to the town. Nakib goes on to say that when the Sabah family came to power, they began to inhabit the fort. Unfortunately, nothing of this structure remains. According to An Illustrated History of Kuwait (some images from it below), its former site is now where the American Missionary Hospital sits.


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